Late Night Kings | A guide to Night Time Tarpon Fishing in South Florida
Photo credit 📷 : Capt. Carlos D. Rodriguez
Across southeast Florida we are blessed to have major inlets that provide
routine thoroughfares for feeding tarpon. While the channels, beaches, and holes
near Port Everglades and Bakers Haulover are a sanctuary for schooling silver kings throughout the coming months, Miami’s inlets win top honors when it comes to quality of fish and bite consistency. This is likely due to the fact that nearby Biscayne Bay provides an ideal habitat for a variety of forage—shrimp in particular.
If you're observant while making your way to historic Government Cut you’ll likely spot tarpon rolling around the McArthur Causeway,Venetian Causeway, Bayside Marina and nearly every venue in between. These areas can certainly hold fish and although it may be enticing to stop and drift a shrimp at any of the aforementioned areas, do yourself a favor and focus your sights towards the inlet as that's where many BIG tarpon go on feed patrol.
TarponGear - Rod & Reel
Keep in mind that if you plan on conquering a mighty silver king
you must be prepared for a marathon. Tarpon are incredibly strong opponents and
can leave you speechless after only a few jumps. Fortified terminal gear partnered
with brawny rods and bulletproof reels are required when battling the almighty
señor silver. A 7-foot rod with oversized guides allows for easier casting when
pitching shrimp down current into the strike zone. I also recommend a locking
gimbal butt, as the fight may last longer than anticipated. Reels, whether spinning
or conventional, must hold a minimum of 300 yards of 20 lb. monofilament.
When chasing metro tarpon under the moon light my terminal tackle consists
of a 5-foot section of 80 lb. monofilament or fluorocarbon leader, joined to the main
line with a barrel swivel or line-to-line connection. I prefer to go the stealthiest
route available and use a low profile PR knot to attach the leader when tying. The use of circle-hooks is recommended to not only promote conservation, but in all transparency I feel that switching to circle hooks has increased my hook up ratio since ditching the J-hooks. When fished effectively circle hooks work great, as the closed design helps prevent fiery tarpon from tossing the hook on a jump. With shrimp on the menu you’ll want to select a medium to thin wire hook that won’t interrupt the crustacean’s natural defense mechanism of skipping away. Occasionally you will that the larger fish straighten out the hook when the fish hooks itself in the top of the mouth which is one of the hardest points to penetrate. I would rather get bit more with the chance of occasionally having a weird hookup than missing getting the bites to using a heavier gauge circle hook which won't allow the bait to appear natural.
Tides & Conditions
When you’re ready to start fishing it’s critical you take note of the tide. Outgoing
tides are ideal, with the last two hours primetime! Moon phase is worth taking
note of, but mainly because it influences the velocity of the tide. A full moon enables tarpon to find forage easier, but as long as shrimp are present
and the tide is honking the fish are going to feed. It’s just a matter of pinpointing the action. I like to start my search near the south or north jetties of Government Cut. Sometimes the fish will be tight along the jetties while other nights they will be more
scattered. I’ve even had great success on the south side of the south jetty outside
of the inlet in about 20-feet of water. While searching for cooperative tarpon
it’s important you reach different levels of the water column. Many times hungry
tarpon will be aggressively feeding several feet below the surface. A fish finder
can quickly reveal the presence of fish staging and feeding in different levels of the water column so, be ready to apply a few split shots if needed as this will help present offerings properly in the strike zone.
Just a few miles north at nearby Haulover Inlet it’s the same story. Tarpon gorge themselves on shrimp and crab during outgoing tides and anglers probing the bridge abutments and sandbars in the vicinity are often handsomely rewarded. A favorite tactic at Haulover is to set up just south of the inlet in about 20 feet and drift in toward the beach. If the tide begins to trickle and the action at the
mouth of the inlet slows, now is the time to target area bridges and shadow lines. For this endeavor you’ll want to anchor up current of the selected bridge abutment
and drift or cast a live shrimp into the shadow line. Here there’s no room for
error, with intelligent tarpon trying their best to quickly wrap around the closest unforgiving piece of structure.
No matter where or how you choose to target South Florida’s winter tarpon
you really can’t go wrong. And while the action during the winter shrimp run can
be addictive, fishing these congested waters in the dark requires special attention.
You must always be aware of boat traffic, channel markers, ledges, and prevalent
sea conditions. Have fun, but be sure to stay in tune with your surroundings! FSF
Fortified terminal gear partnered with brawny rods and bulletproof reels are essential when battling the almighty señor silver.
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